In honor of Colorado Parks & Wildlife’s 125th anniversary this year, the Clear Creek Courant and the Canyon Courier will have a monthly photo page celebrating the state’s amazing wildlife and parks. Each page will celebrate a different local animal or group of animals, including fun facts provided by CPW. For March, the mountain newspapers are celebrating Colorado’s squirrels, chipmunks, marmots and prairie dogs.
SQUIRREL FAMILY FUN FACTS:
- Squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, prairie dogs, woodchucks, and groundhogs are all part of the family Sciuridae, which includes small- to medium-sized rodents. While pikas are similar in size and sometimes share the same habitat, pikas are actually related to rabbits and hares.
- Several species of ground squirrel live in Colorado, with at least one species living in any given area of the state. Squirrel species can be in found in a variety of habitats from the grasslands to the mountains to the desert shrub-lands.
- Colorado is home to five species of chipmunk: Colorado chipmunk, Hopi chipmunk, Uinta chipmunk, cliff chimunk and the least chipmunk. While each lives in a distinct part of the state, the least chipmunk is the most widespread.
- Chipmunks have cheek pouches in which they carry food to store in their burrows.
- Prairie dogs, despite their name, are actually “barking” squirrels. Colorado has three prairie dog species: the black-tailed, the white-tailed and the Gunnison prairie dog. Observers can tell which species a given prairie dog is by the color of its tail, with the Gunnison prairie dog having a gray tail.
- The marmot is the largest of Colorado’s ground squirrels. Marmots have a range of predators that includes coyotes, badgers, birds of prey and weasels. Marmots use their rocky habitats and a social system of alarm calls to protect themselves. However, CPW believes the stress of hibernation is probably a greater cause of death for marmots than predators.
- According to CPW, marmots are known to accidentally hitchhike from their mountain habitat down to the Denver area. Marmots are attracted to vehicle engines for their heat and the soy-based insulation, which can smell like food when heated. So, they hop into the undercarriage portion of vehicles and go for a ride to the metro area, where unsuspecting people find them in garages or parking lots. This typically happens several times a year, and the marmots are relocated the Mount Evans area, Staunton State Park, or other suitable locations.
- Staunton State Park hosts Marmot Fest every summer, as the park boasts an estimated 25-30 marmots living within its boundaries. Because of this, marmots have become Staunton’s unofficial mascot.
GOT WILDLIFE PHOTOS?
The April wildlife photo page will celebrate Colorado’s state animal: the bighorn sheep. To contribute to the April 28 page, email photos to email@example.com before April 17. Include the photographer’s name, and the date and location the photo was taken. The photo can be of wildlife anywhere in Colorado and doesn’t have to be recent.